After signing Michael Cuddyer, the Mets' hunt for a shortstop has taken center stage. Sticking with Wilmer Flores at the position may not put the team in the best position to compete in 2015 and beyond. General manager Sandy Alderson will gather intel on the trade and free agent markets during next week's winter meetings in San Diego, and perhaps make a move. One of his targets should be Brad Miller, shortstop for the Seattle Mariners.
The left-handed hitting Miller, who turned 25 in October, played 123 games in 2014, 107 of them at shortstop. The Clemson University product was Seattle's second-round pick in 2011, and made his major league debut in June of 2013.
After a successful debut campaign in 2013 in which he posted a 110 wRC+ and was worth 1.8 wins above replacement, Miller fell somewhat short of expectations in 2014. His 86 wRC+ and 1.4 wins above replacement were disappointing after his very promising start to his career. His .221/.288/.365 batting line in 2014 paled in comparison to his .265/.318/.418 line in 2013. He walked more in 2014, which is a good sign, but he also struck out more. If a "sophomore slump" is really a thing, maybe that's what Miller experienced last year. In any event, his down year in 2014 is the exact reason he is a realistic trade option for the Mets.
Miller hit at every level of the minors. In fact, the lowest OPS of his minor league career was .850 in 175 plate appearances in the Double-A Southern League. His highest was a 1.022 in 122 plate appearances in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League. This speaks to his offensive abilities. His 2013 results should be more indicative of his skill set than his 2014. Major league pitchers made an adjustment to him–it's his turn to adjust to them.
He experienced a bit of bad luck this past season as his batting average on balls In play (BABIP) dipped by 26 points. This may explain some of his offensive regression. His highest home run total in the minors was 15 in 2012, so he may never be a high-power guy even if he were to switch to Citi Field's new dimensions. What he can be, though, is a solid offensive shortstop with a good eye who could be penciled in for at least 10 home runs every season. His defense was basically average in 2014 according to ultimate zone rating (UZR). He was worth -3 defensive runs saved (DRS) at shortstop, which may sound bad, but it put him in a tie for 14th in baseball, right in the middle of the pack. If he were to break out and put everything together, he'd presumably exceed this production considerably.
Unlike other high-profile, available shortstops, Miller will not cost nearly as much in a potential trade. Lacking more specificity, Peter Gammons revealed that the Mets offered pitcher Jonathon Niese for Miller last offseason, but the Mariners declined. Perhaps a more significant package built around Niese or pitching prospect Rafael Montero would enable the Mets to land the young shortstop, who is not arbitration eligible until after the 2016 season, and will not hit free agency until after the 2019 season.
Miller is the definition of a young, controllable asset, which may add some leverage to the Mariners' side of a deal. However, the cost based on his performance up to this point should not be too high. The Mets should, within reason, cater to whatever Seattle wants in a trade. If he performs like he did in 2013 for the rest of his career, he'd still be better than average at the position. If he busts, the penalty won't be too harsh because of the cost to the Mets: They can afford to move pitching. If he breaks out and reaches his full potential, the trade would be a steal.